Icebreakers

Y’know, I didn’t plan the title to be quite this appropriate, but after a quiet hiatus of two-ish months, it’s actually kind of fitting. I think of good icebreakers as fun little questions, or questions you ask “because why not?” And really good ones both break the ice and tell you something about the person you’re asking them of while they commence with said breaking of ice. Not totally sure why, but I’ve caught myself asking these kinds of things of my coworkers a lot more often lately – not because dialogue with them is awkward or anything, quite the opposite; I think it’s just because they’re sort of fun.

And why make it more complicated than that?

So without further adieu, Icebreaker #1: “If you were going to become an animal, what animal would you become and why?”

My favorite part to that one is actually all of the qualifying questions that usually follow it. “Like, at will, or forever moving forward?” “Right now, or is going to happen in a week or something?” “Will I keep my human intelligence, or just- poof! You’re a jaguar now?” And to answer those, the house rules we’ve been running with have essentially been “No, it isn’t an at-will kind of thing. It’s a permanent change. No, you don’t get a week to prep for it, it just happens here as soon as you answer – go with your gut. Yes, you keep your human intelligence.”

Obviously my second-favorite part are the answers themselves and their justification. That jaguar one was a real answer, and the given reason was that he wanted to be a house cat, but if he gets to keep his human intelligence, then a jaguar is like that but a bit more badass. Plus, if you’re going to answer the question and introduce a scenario wherein you’re now suddenly a giant cat, there are some follow-up questions that beg answers: How do you tell your family? Do you tell your family? Where do you set up your new home if so, or if not? If you’re a predator now, then what/where/how do you hunt?

The possibilities are ENDLESS!

Personally, I chose becoming a hedgehog; but truthfully, that was just a gut-reaction and I don’t think it was really a smart choice. I’d become super cute, sure, but I think, like, anything that lives outdoors can and would happily eat me. Or at least brutalize me.

Lookin’ at you, stray cats.

The other classic is “If you could have a super power, which one would you have and why?”

This one everybody has heard and/or given an answer to. Mine is pretty easy: telekinesis. It’s subtle enough that most times nobody ever has to know you can do it, but it can also get powerful enough that you’re a goddamn Jedi, plus there’s plenty of room for creativity with it. But you also run the gambit of Usual Suspects:

Invisibility – Ugh, says everyone. Though, credit where it’s due, one of my friends did say that she’d use it defensively instead of to be a creep. She’d just go invisible when she didn’t want people to talk to her, and I can respect that.

Flight – Sure, but how, wings or thought? And how fast? Either way, you’re going to need goggles or something, plus it’s going to get cold. That and a slew of other problems come along with choosing to fly. ALSO, it’s one of those powers where if you suddenly stop using it while you’re using it – you die.

Teleportation – See this one’s also problematic. Is it short-distance, Nightcrawler style? Or is it like in Jumper where you can just pop across the planet? And do you think you can focus enough and picture your destination clearly enough, honestly, to be able to not end up glitching into a wall somewhere?

This last one is a little niche, but I still think it can be pretty telling of the person who answers it: “What’s your favorite D&D class, and why?”

Naturally, this will be a little limited to tabletop gamers being the only ones who can give you informed answers, but we are a growing breed, and it can be a chance to introduce newbies. Also, it can be a good way to be surprised. One friend who I was sure would swing either for ‘stalwart paladin’ or ‘playful rogue’ hit me out of left field with “I think being a druid is cool. Taming beasts and kicking ass as a bear, or something. Rad.”

Rad indeed, Robert. Rad indeed.

Personally, my favorite class is and always will be the Ranger, even if they get a little screwed over by Wizards of the Coast in the stats department. But even if their class features receive lesser support than others, it isn’t really what they can do that makes Rangers the best, it’s…well, what they are. They are so freakin’ versatile – ranged support, melee damage dealers, exploration/expedition heads, utility spellcasting, animal companions if you lean that way, etc. I get that this statement is true for plenty of classes, but I feel it in my heart the most for the Ranger: you can build it so many different ways. System-wise, Pathfinder may have done it the best, with the inclusion of “Urban” environments as a possible Favored Terrain. One of my favorite Ranger builds was making an urban explorer that was a treasure hunter, with Constructs as his favored enemy.

Taking silver is sort of a two-way tie between Bards and Monks, but that’s a separate discussion.

Anyway, so, yeah.

What Gorilla Nipples Have to Teach us About Consciousness

Yeah, another one of these, but I’ll keep it brief as I can.

If you’re reading this, then you’re on the internet; and if you’re on the internet, that probably means you can find a clip of two gorillas in a zoo enclosure hanging out together for the pleasure of onlookers. In this particular video, the gorillas are sitting there, minding their own business, chewing on stuff, when one of them suddenly reaches over and tweaks the other’s nipples. The assaulted gorilla briefly snarls, baring his teeth, and smacks the other gorilla’s hands away.

Then, the most beautiful thing happened: they started laughing hysterically.

These two massive, primitive jungle beasts were slapping their knees, laughing maniacally at the joke one had just played on the other. For one thing, obviously, it’s hilarious. Nipple jokes, stuff about butts, or pranks about peens will and should always be funny. But for another thing, it was- okay, a quick aside:

At the top, this will be a bit weird, but bear with me. We are, all of us, regardless of rank, station, occupation, status, wealth, or otherwise, human. We forget that a LOT of the time, but by and large we all come into this world the same way, and we’ll all leave it the same way too. I used to have a trick to remembering that where I would – God, please, again, bear with me for a moment – collect people’s farts.

And not in some weird way (*nervous laughter*) like in jars or something. It was at a company I worked for, basically an office job, and I started to notice some things. I’d go to the bathroom, be sitting in a stall doin’ business (Christ, I feel like I’ve mentioned bowel movements a lot lately. Sorry everyone.) and someone would walk in to step up to the urinal. I wouldn’t know who it was, but at that point in my life I was a nervous pooper, so I put a pause on my own business until the realm was wholly mine again. But it would be while looking down at the person’s shoes hearing the tinkle they were taking, that usually a heel would leave the ground and I’d hear them toot. Of course then they’d finish up and leave, but I found myself on the hunt the rest of the day trying to identify who it’d been that I’d just heard fart.

They weren’t those on the manufacturing floor, or working store rooms, or other factory folks. They were department heads, executives, Inner Circle types. And it was there in those moments of tooting in the social sanctuary of the men’s room that those barriers dissolved and we were just humans. Humans that both passed gas.

Which brings me back to the gorillas. In the same way that, once you strip away the titles, status, manufactured authority, and whatever else, we’re all just people who fart, the same logic applies to those gorillas. When someone’s nipples get tweaked, it’s funny as hell, and here I’m confronted by the fact that gorillas are the same way. It’s like finding out that the big hard-drinking biker guy standing next to you also really likes Hamilton, and you’re able to bond over that with him. If you’re similar in that way, how many others ways might you be kin?

“There but for the grace of God go I,” is supposed to elicit the humble realization that someone else in an unfortunate circumstance is the same as you, the only dividing factor being luck, basically. You…the conscious awareness behind your eyes, your thoughts…you could have been a gorilla. Could have been a dog, or a locust, or anything, but you wound up as a person. We just…we need to stop thinking we’re all so different. It’s dumb.

I don’t know what consciousness is. None of us really do. It’s somehow, simultaneously, the least understood and most mysterious force we have to observe in this life, while also being the most innate, familiar experience there is to be. It’s just…<groan> be it a gorilla, a songbird, or another person walking down the street, it’s a worthy reminder that we’re all just – for all our accomplishments, complications, and manufactured status – creatures trying to get by in our own jungles.

Anyway, all for now. Peace, y’all.